Faculty in the Klein College of Media and Communication began providing free menstrual products in the women’s restrooms of Annenberg Hall this semester.
Deborah Cai, Klein’s senior associate dean, and Shannon Rooney, the assistant dean for Klein’s strategic communications, donated menstrual products for student use after Cai’s former student brought it to her attention. Tampons and pads have been available in the first and third floor women’s restrooms in Annenberg since Jan. 14.
“I was talking to Dr. Cai about stigmatization around menstruation and the negative impact of that,” said Maya Minhas, a 2018 communication studies and Spanish alumna. “From there, it snowballed into recognizing issues on campus and how we can change that.”
Suzanne Lindabery, a freshman social work major, said she unexpectedly got her period at the TECH Center and did not have access to any menstrual products. The university should have better options for menstruating students, she said.
“That should not happen, and I also shouldn’t have to pay for one if I am on campus,” Lindabery said. “They should definitely be free on campus with tuition at least, if they’re not going to be free in general.”
A Klein College faculty member first asked Facilities Management to make products available to menstruating students in September 2017, Cai said, but were told the university could not provide them due to financial reasons.
“I don’t know a single machine on campus for women’s products,” Cai said. “So what are women supposed to do if suddenly their period starts, and here they are on campus?”
Menstrual products are not stocked on campus but are available at the Wellness Resource Center, a university spokesperson wrote in a statement to The Temple News.
Fifty-three percent of all Temple students, undergraduate and graduate, are women, according to Fall 2017 data in the university’s 2017-18 fact book. But machines that used to distribute menstrual products were removed due to vandalism, said Kristine Weatherston, the faculty adviser for the Feminist Alliance and a media studies and production professor.
“There’s this prioritizing of potential vandalism of these machines, over everyday, overall health needs of half the population on campus,” she said.
University spokespeople did not immediately respond to a request for comment about this claim.
“The fact that you have to go to 7-Eleven and buy an overpriced box of whatever they have, it might not be what you use or what you’re comfortable with, but you spend three times the price because it’s the only thing available, is criminal,” added Weatherston.
Cai oversees supplying the third-floor women’s restroom with menstrual products, and Rooney oversees the first-floor women’s restroom. They are the main two donors, but other women in Klein sometimes drop off donations, Rooney said. Cai spends on average of $12 per week out of her own pocket for the supplies and restocks each restroom as needed.
“It is a step in the right direction,” Weatherston said. “I am very proud to be part of Klein in general. I am so happy to be part of a college that cares about people who menstruate.”
Students and faculty who are interested in donating menstrual products can drop off items at Cai’s office in room 334B of Annenberg Hall, or donate products to the Cherry Pantry, which began offering personal hygiene products in September 2018. The pantry is located in room 224A of the Student Center.
“Many students who experience food insecurity also have difficulty obtaining personal hygiene products, which can be expensive,” wrote Michelle Martin, director of the Cherry Pantry, in an email to The Temple News. “These are hygienic necessities, not optional items, for students. Providing access to these items for students in need bolsters their dignity and self-respect.”
Groups on Main Campus like Feminist Alliance also hold drives where students can donate spare menstrual products to organizations that help people who menstruate get the resources they need, The Temple News reported in September 2018.
Student organizations at universities that have not yet begun providing menstrual products are pushing institutional services to do so.
The University of Pennsylvania’s student government is encouraging the university to install containers for used menstrual products and provide tampons and pads in highly-frequented buildings, The Daily Pennsylvanian reported. Student representatives said they’ll be working with Penn’s Student Health Service to add Penn to a list of several universities nationwide that keep free menstrual products in campus bathrooms.
Menstrual products should be made available similarly to how toilet paper is offered in restroom stalls, said Kiana Burton, a sophomore physics major.
“In the girls’ bathroom, everyone gets their period,” Burton added. “…I have had those moments where I wish I had something different than what I have, or I have forgotten. It would be nice to have the quarter machines in the bathrooms.”
Alyssa Biederman contributed reporting.